June 18, 2024

Pickleball has been the fastest growing sport in America for three years running. With more than 36.5 million pickleball players in the U.S., injuries are also on the rise. Adults of all ages are enjoying this sport that blends tennis, ping pong and badminton.

Thomas Finn DO

Sports Medicine

While it’s great exercise and fun to play, the sport requires quick movements, agility, strength and balance. Like any sport, there are common injuries on the pickleball court.

Most injuries stem from trips and falls: 

  • Knee and ankle sprains, strains and meniscus tears
  • Wrist injuries such as sprains, breaks and fractures from trying to break a fall
  • Achilles tendon tears and ruptures
  • Hamstring strains  

There are also repetitive use injuries such as shoulder strains. Instead of tennis elbow, people are getting pickleball elbow, a form of tendinitis from gripping the racquet handle.

Let’s look at how to prevent pickleball injuries:

  1. Wear a court shoe: Pickleball requires movement from side to side, lunging forward and backward. A court shoe is designed for this type of motion and can help prevent rolling or spraining an ankle, slipping or falling. A tennis shoe can support quick starts and stops and offer stability for lateral movements. Pickleball shoes can also be found online and at local retailers. Do not wear running shoes because they are only designed for moving forward.  
  2. Be active off the court: A blend of cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility conditioning is good for pickleball and life! Cardio training such as sprints, jumping rope, cycling, spinning and stair climbing are a good choice. Try setting up cones in various patterns and practice moving quickly and changing directions around the cones. Strength training like squats, lunges and planks can improve strength, balance and stability. Yoga sessions can help improve flexibility, balance and strength. 
  3. Warm Up: As adults, we tend to jump right into activities. Before taking the court, warm up to prepare your muscles. Begin with light cardio like jogging in place or jumping jacks for 5-10 minutes. Move on to dynamic stretches that combine movement with full range of motion. Squats, lateral lunges, high knees and arm circles are good options.
  4. Take Lessons: Learning the proper form, rules of play and movements can help prevent injury and improve your experience! The Pickle Barn, Mankato Area Pickleball Association and community education are a good resource for lessons and leagues. Lessons can also help you anticipate the shots coming your way and teach you proper court position so you’re well-placed to reach the ball.
  5. Know your limits: As humans, we can be very competitive when a ball is involved! As a newbie, take it slow and easy. Let the hard ones go. Master the basics of paddle grip, strokes, serves and volleys. Whether you are starting a new activity, or just increasing the amount or intensity, it’s important to increase activity gradually in order to prevent overuse injuries. Remember, the body needs time to recover and strengthen when we are trying to achieve new goals.

Serious injuries and concussions need medical attention right away, but many injuries can be treated with RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If RICE doesn’t bring recovery, sports medicine and physical therapy can help.

Before beginning a new sport, talk with your healthcare provider. This article is for general education and informational purposes only.